What does it mean to be a badass? It’s an interesting question. To some people, it means the ability to look credibly tough while wearing a leather jacket. As someone who does not possess this talent, I have deep respect for Fonzie and all other people with this skill set.
But this is a superficial definition. True badassery runs much deeper. It’s not about whether you are good at making your lips form a sexy sneer; it’s about the achievements that are making you sneer with pride in the first place.
This is the biggest lesson of the Internet’s best new meme, spawned by one Twitter user’s innocent question: “Name a bitch badder than Taylor Swift.”
As you can see in the above photo, Taylor Swift has the “bad” look down. She’s put on a lot of eyeshadow and dark lipstick. She’s wearing black, the official color of villains. She has made her bangs curly, which is quite difficult. But Twitter had no trouble coming up with a long list of women who can give Swift a good run at the “baddest bitch” crown—offering bite-sized lessons in feminist history in the process.
Some told of warrior queens:
And abolitionist heroes:
Others highlighted World War II pilots:
There are scientists and codebreakers:
And social justice crusaders:
Not to mention artists:
Twitter also brimmed over with tales of the mothers, grandmothers, friends, and other female relatives whose names may not appear in the history books, but whose achievements range from protecting children during pogroms to secretly learning to drive in order to take women to the polls when they finally got the right to vote. One woman, whose bio identifies her as an associate professor of communication at the University of Delaware, rightfully nominated herself:
The point of the meme isn’t to tear Swift down. Rather, it’s to celebrate the abundance of badass women who’ve passed through this world, or live in it now. It can be tempting to focus our praise on pop stars who look the part of the rebel. But it’s worthwhile to shine a spotlight on the huge range of defiant, unconventional women who’ve made the world a bit more livable for the rest of us—whether they had a leather jacket or not.